22 July, 2011

22 July, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
22 July, 1944         0940

Dearest one –

Once upon a time Saturday meant a. no school, b. no p.m. classes, c. football games, d. a week-end off from interning, e. office hours in the p.m. and something to do in the evening. And now, dear, Saturday means nothing – nothing but another day to wait through, to leave behind.

I’m reading a book – or I did yesterday. There was a quotation in it, poet not given, and it went something like this:

“Four things greater than all things are,
  Women and horses and power and war.”

I don’t know about the horses, but the others strike home. There is nothing greater in my life at present sweetheart than a woman – you, dear – and the knowledge of you, what you mean to me now and what you are going to mean to me in the future – is certainly the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. How unfortunate that two other great things – power and war – have to stand opposed, preventing us from being together!

The last two days have been really dull and I’ve had plenty of time to think. And you know, dear, I had the opportunity of starting way back in the beginning and following us right up to the present. I was amazed mostly at how my life is now centered about one person in every thought I have; I’m amazed at how I’m filled with a love I never felt before for anyone the way I feel it for you. I know, darling, that I don’t express it often enough – but you’ll have to believe me when I say that the most agonizing part of the war for me has not been the sleeping in fox holes, the ducking low when evening shells are bursting, the fear which every honest person must admit pervades him when he realizes what might happen to him; no – none of these – terrible as they are, have bothered me so much as the haunting thought that I could be with you now, married to you, living as a normal couple should, loving you and doing things for you that would make you happy. I hate to think how I would have borne this war if I hadn’t been fortunate enough to meet you, love you, become engaged to you. Even the most moronic soldier wants to go home and seems to be fighting for just that and almost nothing more. You can imagine then, dear, how much a person who thinks a bit more deeply about it – feels.

I can’t seem to become imbued with the spirit of fighting for this freedom or that – although fundamentally I know that that is what I should be fighting for. But one can’t help become selfish and think in terms of his own small world – and darling, that world right now includes you and me and our families. I’m afraid that war – instead of giving me a broad perspective – is narrowing mine down.

Sweetheart – you must not gather from all this that I am unhappy; Quite the contrary. I’m trying to convey to you that I love you so deeply that I miss sorely my not being with you, talking with you, looking at you, hearing you laugh, holding you and kissing you – but despite my missing all that, I thank my lucky stars that I have someone like you to miss. I suppose that all sounds like a paradox and maybe I sound mixed up – so I’ll leave it right here –

The book I referred to above that I’m reading is “So Little Time” by J.P. Marquand. So far it’s excellent. If you get a chance – read it dear. It hits home – a good many times. The hospital has been slow the past couple of days and I’ve had a little breathing spell.

Everything is going along well here and I’m feeling fine and rested. Boy oh boy will I crush you when I see you! You’ll have to learn how to say uncle in almost 6 different languages. I’m going to love you so hard and so long that I wonder who is going to look after my practice.

Darling – no mail again yesterday – but surely today. One year ago today – on a Saturday (it was then the 24th) I met you – and it was certainly a lucky turning point in my life. My having been away makes little difference – dear – because I feel I know you and love you much more than even one year’s worth. And we’ll celebrate this anniversary, so help me – and many, many more.

I’ll stop now, sweetheart. I hope all is going well at home. Send my love to the family and
My deepest love is yours –


about the Culin and Douglas Hedgerow Cutters

Culin Hedgerow Cutter

When a tank climbed over a hedgerow, its lightly armored belly was exposed to enemy fire while its guns could not be lowered enough to provide protection. A member of a light tank 102nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron of the 2nd Armored Division, Sergeant Curtis G. Culin, III, devised a sort of fork made of iron which could be attached to the front of a tank, thus enabling it to cut through a hedgerow rather than climb over it. Troops would then follow through the openings in the hedgerows to support the armor.

A maintenance expert in Culin's unit worked on the technical aspects of the problem and developed a four-pronged plow from angle iron that the Germans used on the beaches of Normandy. Soon the device was shown to the commanding general of the 2nd Infantry Division and Generals Gerow (V Corps) and Bradley (1st Army). General Bradley immediately ordered that everything be done to equip as many tanks as possible with the device before the final breakout was attempted. The hedgerow-breaching "tusks" led to the tanks being called "Rhino" tanks. Between 15 July and 25 July, when Operation Cobra started, over 500 Rhinos were manufactured. By the time the attack was launched, 3 of every 5 tanks which were to be involved had been modified. Tankers also added sandbags to provide added protection against the German shells. For his innovation, Sergeant Culin was awarded the Legion of Merit. Four months after his invention, he lost a leg to a land mine in the Huertgen Forest. When he returned to the United States, he became a salesman.
Curtis Culin, III
On 22 July, a modified M5A1 light tank was demonstrated to Gen. George S. Patton and a team from the 3rd Armored Division. After the demonstration, the division was ordered to build its own Rhino devices on a crash program. A workshop was set up in St. Jean de Daye under the supervision of Warrant Officer Douglas, who had been a professional welder in civilian life. Douglas didn't favor the Culin design, and devised a modified version that was distinguished by a pair of triangular plates at either end which he felt would penetrate the hedge better. A total of 57 of these 'Douglas cutters' were attached to tanks of the 3rd Armored Division prior to Cobra. The various types of Rhino devices were all considered top secret, and Bradley ordered that none be used until the main operation began.

These photos show the Douglas cutter with triangular plates.

The photo below shows a Douglas cutter being soldered onto a tank in a square in the town of Saint Jean-de-Daye on 26 July 1944, before the breakout.

St. Jean-de-Daye on 26 July 1944
while Greg was there...

To view a video of this welding activity, click here. It can be enlarged to full screen by double-clicking where indicated. Back arrow to return.

In fact, operational accounts of the 2nd Armored Division in Operation Cobra provide few indications that the devices ever played much of a role. This had more to do with the conduct of the fighting than with any technical virtue or failing of the Rhinos. The preliminary air attack against the Panzer Lehr Division left large craters making tank runs between hedgerows quite difficult. But these air attacks also shattered the main force opposing the 2nd Armored Division. As a result, the division aggressively pushed through the German defences. Rather than struggle cross-country through the bocage, the 2nd Armored Division used the country roads wherever possible, avoiding the need to use the Rhinos.

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